YAN LIANKE (1958— )
YAN LIANKE (1958— ). Novelist. Born in a small town in Henan Province, Yan Lianke joined the army in 1985. He later studied political science at Henan University and literature at the Military Institute of Arts. Yan began his career by writing about rural and army life. Zuihou yiming nü zhiqing (The Last Female Educated Youth) deals with the prices individuals have to pay due to forces beyond their own control. It focuses on a woman whose decision to leave the village, along with the rest of the urban youth, is complicated by her marriage to a local peasant. Other novels about rural China include Riguang liunian (Sunlight and the Fleeting Time), about a small village’s painful and courageous journey to modernity, and an allegorical novel, Shouhuo (The Village of Shouhuo), in which the author uses a farcical and hyperbolic language to tell a sad tale of how a remote village inhabited by disabled residents is discovered and used for developing the economy of the county. Both of these two novels examine suffering and the meaning of life.
In dealing with military themes, Yan focuses on interpersonal relationships and the common concerns of daily life. Xia Riluo (Xia Riluo), set against the background of the border clash between China and Vietnam, focuses on two low-ranking military officers whose friendship is threatened when they are faced with the prospect that one of them could be promoted and the other forced to return to farming. The best known of his military fiction is Wei renmin fuwu (Serve the People), which tells the story of a soldier from the countryside who gains military honors and promotions by providing sexual favors to his commander’s bored wife. The exchange of sex for political status makes a mockery of Mao’s teaching, “Serve the people.” For sexual arousal, the protagonists come up with “counterrevolutionary” acts such as smashing Chairman Mao statues. By turning Mao Zedong and the lofty Communist ideals into a game of debauchery, the novel offended the sensibilities of the authorities and was subsequently banned.
On Yan’s long list of publications are Jinlian nihao (Hello, Jinlian), a parody of the tale about China’s most infamous seductress, Pan Jinlian, who is featured in classical novels and operas, and Jianying ru shui (As Hard as Water), a story of two young Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution whose steamy sex is carried out in the midst of their revolutionary destructive acts that provide stimulants for their insatiable carnal desire.